Take a barn tour with 4-H members at the Howard County fair

Did you know that goats have eyes that give them 32-0 to 340-degree vision? Or that you can tell what color eggs a chicken lays by looking at its earlobes?

These are just some of the interesting facts one can learn by taking a free fair tour. Offered twice daily, the tours are new to the fair this year, according to Kathy Johnson, agricultural development manager for Howard County Economic Development Authority.

"So far it has worked out really good," Johnson said. "They seem to be gaining a lot of interest."

The tour idea came together with the help of the Howard County Farm Academy, an organization that educatesfarmers and residents about each other and their needs. Led by senior 4-H members, youth between the ages of 14 and 18, the tours take groups to the various barns while providing facts about the county, 4-H and animals in 30 minutes.

"The 4-H'ers are super excited about this idea," Johnson said. "Fifteen signed up to give tours. That is pretty amazing."

Even younger 4-H members are able to help by manning the tour table, which is located near the fair entrance, and handing out information.

"It's a great chance for 4-H'ers to get another opportunity for public speaking," Johnson said. "It's a great way for them to promote what they do."

While leading a large group, which included County Executive Allan Kittleman, on Tuesday's 3 p.m. tour, Ellie Feage pointed out her dairy cows as she went through the dairy barn. Besides leading tours, Ellie, 15, had the added responsibility of recruiting and organizing all of the 4-H tour guides.

"I like the promoting aspect of teaching people about agriculture," Ellie said. "I like telling people about animals."

Ellie is in the process of creating a self-guiding tour for next year's fair for her Diamond Clover Award project, which is equivalent to Boy Scouts' Eagle Scout award. Her plan is for participants to pick up a sheet and collect facts about animals found in the barns. Once completed, the sheets can then be turned in for a prize.

"That's for next year," Ellie added.

Vicki Rand, of Fulton, has three children in 4-H and is the leader of Dayton 4-H club. Her son, Jacob, helped Ellie with Tuesday's group. Rand thinks the tours are "fantastic."

"It is a great way to get kids involved and the youth experienced in public speaking," Rand said. "A lot of people feel intimidated going into the barns. This [the tours] gives them a little preview."

Kittleman had a horse and raised beef cattle while growing up in Howard County, but was never in 4-H, he said. He always came to the fair, however.

"It's my favorite week of the year," Kittleman said. "I've been to at least 50."

Isobel Knotts, 8, of Dayton, learned some interesting facts about horses during the tour, she said, but was even more surprised to learn that her grandmother had been in 4-H.

"I used to win prizes, too," her grandmother said, as they headed to meet family.

The free 30-minute walking tours are given weekdays at 1 and 3 p.m. On Saturdays, tours are 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

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